This is the text of the letter sent by Haslemere Town Council to the Planning Inspectorate regarding Waverley Borough Council’s application to spend £342,000 on the Wey Hill Fairground refurbishment on common land.
The Planning Inspectorate
Room 3/25B, Hawk Wing
Temple Quay House
2 The Square
5 April 2013
COM 454 – resurfacing of the Wey Hill Fairground site
I write with reference to the above application to which Haslemere Town Council (“HTC”) wishes to object by way of proposing an alternative solution.
A local community group, Haslemere Vision, was formed In October 2012 with the active support of HTC to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the Localism Act 2011. The administrative boundary of HTC was designated as a Neighbourhood Area by Waverley Borough Council (“WBC”) on 19th February 2013 and one of the first goals of Haslemere Vision is the production of a Neighbourhood Development Plan.
Work on the plan is in its early stages but some sites within the Neighbourhood Area have already been identified as having a particularly important role to play in the overall future vision for Haslemere. The Wey Hill Fairground (“WHF”) site is the most important of these areas, being situated between two parts of the town, namely “old” Haslemere to the south and Shottermill to the north. It is believed that a suitable mixed-use development of WHF will have significant community benefits by revitalising the Wey Hill shopping area in Shottermill and providing a greater degree of connection between old Haslemere and Shottermill. While it is too soon to suggest even a tentative timetable for community agreement, design, financing and construction of such a project, the ambition is to achieve this in the next five years rather than in the next five to ten years.
Given these community ambitions, HTC is unable to support proposals from WBC which appear likely to give rise to a permanent or semi-permanent use of WHF simply as a ground-level car park. The capital investment required for the resurfacing for which WBC is seeking consent has been stated by WBC to be about £342,000 and WBC has also made no secret of its expectation that a pay-and-display income of about £100,000 p.a. could be generated. It would be naïve not to expect WBC to wish to operate the car park on a charged basis for at least four years to recover their investment. It would also be naïve to deny the attraction to WBC of continuing a steady income stream. However, even assuming that WBC would be content with simply recovering its investment, given that work on the car park as proposed by WBC would not start until the 2014/15 financial year, operation and charging would not begin until 2015. The likelihood is therefore that the site would be unavailable for community-led development until 2019 at the earliest. However, even this may be unduly optimistic for the reasons given below.
Car parking is an important issue in Haslemere and there has been much focus since 2005 on encouraging Network Rail and South-West Trains to build a multi-storey car park (“MSCP”) at Haslemere Station to accommodate steadily increasing demand from commuters, over three hundred of whom currently park free of charge on the roads around the Station and thereby cause considerable inconvenience to many of the residents. WHF is within five minutes’ walk of the Station and currently accommodates about 90 commuters. The introduction of charging at WHF is bound to cause displacement of at least some cars into the nearby roads and this will be very unwelcome if it occurs before a Station MSCP opens for business.
The idea of a Station MSCP was first raised in 2005 and planning permission was granted in 2009 but progress then halted because of financial viability concerns. Discussions have since been revived and are currently being held involving the Department for Transport, Network Rail, South-West Trains and Haslemere Town Council to solve the financing and franchise issues surrounding the MSCP project. However, it would be optimistic to expect the MSCP to be open for business in even two years’ time. Three years is a more reasonable estimate and it will be seen that, if WBC agreed to postpone charging at WHF until then, this will also postpone the completion of the payback period for the proposed WBC investment to 2020 or 2021.
HTC agrees with WBC that the surface of the WHF should be repaired but It is the prospect of such an extended delay in achieving the community-led long-term solution for WFH that is the most unattractive aspect of what WBC are seeking to do and the delay is largely driven by the scale, cost and payback period of the proposed refurbishment works. If refurbishment could be carried out much more cheaply, these problems would diminish.
Accordingly, HTC and Haslemere Vision have therefore investigated the feasibility of adequate but much cheaper repairs which would achieve the aim of improving the surface but, by greatly reducing the cost, remove the incentive to introduce charging and hence remove the delay associated with a 3 to 4 year payback period.
It should be borne in mind that approximately 60% of the area consists of tarmacadam or similar hard standing which does not need attention in the medium-term. Only the remaining 40%, or approximately 1,500 square metres, requires repair to remove pot-holes and to re-grade to introduce gentle falls to facilitate effective drainage. We have obtained quotes and estimates from appropriate resurfacing contractors for an alternative solution which consists of scarifying the area to be repaired, raking smooth, grading over the existing surface with imported D.O.T. Type 1 limestone, and power rolling. This solution requires only low maintenance, and although potholes may appear within two to three years, they can be repaired easily by the same process.
The indicative quote from Axtell PLC (see Appendix 1) is for £12,750 plus VAT and that from SR Newman & Co (see Appendix 2) is for £19,730 plus VAT. Eurovia Ltd. also visited the site and, while declining to issue a quote at this stage, has advised that a budget of £25,000 to £28,000 should be contemplated. While these should be regarded as indicative figures which would be subject to change following tighter pre-contract specification, their message is clear, namely that adequate medium term repairs can be carried out for 5-10% of the £342,000 capital sum that WBC is contemplating.
HTC would be grateful if you will give consideration to giving permission for this alternative proposal rather than for the much more expensive form of resurfacing works proposed by WBC which we believe to be unnecessary and likely to delay the implementation of a community-led redevelopment of the site.